Over the last few years, as browsers have developed, a new way to promote your website has slowly gained ground.
Push notifications allow you to send an instant online notification to all your subscribers, the very moment that a new post goes live.
But why might you want to use this technology?
The Benefits of Push Notifications
Push notifications are arguably the single easiest way for visitors to your website to be kept informed of updates.
Historically there have been two main ways to achieve this; an RSS subscription or an email optin.
However each of these, while beneficial in their own right, requires effort on the part of your visitors.
They’ll have to manually add your RSS feed to their feed reader, or enter their email address into your optin form.
The beauty of push notifications is that all visitors have to do is click a button and they’re subscribed.
No messing about or entering data. This not only makes it easier to subscribe, but also means that mobile visitors are far more likely to opt in.
The question is quite what sort of response rates these push notifications receive.
While the data varies, of course, many website users are seeing response rates in the region of 15-20% – sometimes higher.
In other words, if you get 1000 visitors signed up you should see an influx of around 200 visitors every time you send out a push notification.
Any blogger or content marketer not using such notifications is therefore missing out on a considerable volume of free, repeat traffic.
How Push Notifications Work
Push notifications are surprisingly simple.
A visitor arrives at your site, and a small popup window appears at the top of their browser, asking if they’d like to receive notifications from you.
If they select “yes” then they’re added to your subscriber list, so you can contact them again in the future.
At any point visitors can opt out again to stop receiving notifications.
From your perspective, sending out a notification is as simple as typing in a short sentence, and a URL to refer visitors to.
Some systems will also let you add a custom image.
Enter the data, click “send” and within minutes your subscribers will be receiving those notifications.
Backed up with data, you’ll be able to see exactly how many people clicked through, so you can slowly improve your results over time.
The key, here, is getting set up with the right push notification service to begin with.
In this article, therefore, we’re going to look at some of the more popular options, to help you decide just which solution is likely to be right your purposes.
One Signal offers free website notifications to anyone with a Chrome, Firefox of Safari browser (Microsoft Edge should soon be added to the list too).
OneSignal is quite highly regarded in the world of push notifications as it offers a number of rather exciting features.
Firstly, as with any good email autoresponder software, you can segment your list. You can, for example, send messages only to people in a certain country, or who opted in from a specific URL.
Doing so can not only increase your response rates, but also makes these notifications more targeted, and therefore less intrusive.
Rather more excitingly, however, and unique among the services I’ve tested out recently, is the ability to split test messages. That is to say that you can send out one notification to a section of your subscribers, and another to other people.
In doing so you’ll be able to see exactly what messages, topics and images are driving the most interest.
If there is an Achilles Heel to One Signal it’s that it offers one of the most complicated setup procedures of all.
While the process isn’t technically difficult, it does take some time. Fortunately, for WordPress users such as myself, there is a free plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/onesignal-free-web-push-notifications/) which you can install on your blog, which gently guides you through every step of configuring your notification system.
In many ways, therefore, OneSignal can be seen as the most technologically advanced option – one that requires patience to set up, but then offers a number of features rarely seen with similar services.
FoxPush may not offer a WordPress plugin, but setup and installation is still considerably easier than OneSignal. Simply fill in a few boxes, generate the required code, and then copy and paste this code into your website.
In other words, if you’re comfortable adding lines of code to your blog or website then you can be up and running within minutes.
Like OneSignal, FoxPush offers the ability to segment your audience, however they also offer something rather unique; push surveys.
Let’s imagine, for a moment, that you were trying to decide what topic to write about next on your blog. Many bloggers would carefully create a survey, and then email this out to their readers. Of course, this can take time.
With FoxPush, however, you can send out an instant survey via your push notifications, to get near-instant responses from your subscribers.
That said, it’s important to appreciate that FoxPush operates on a “freemium” model – that is to say that basic accounts are free, while larger accounts are required to pay.
This hardly needs to be an issue, however, as the free account allows up to 50,000 subscribers. Based on my own experience, where only a tiny fraction of my visitors are opting in, it will likely take a considerable period of time to get anywhere near this limit.
SendPulse is arguably the most basic of the four services I’ve looked at. It works on Safari, Chrome and Firefox, and offers a decent level of list segmentation.
Easily set up, with just a single line of code to paste into your website, there are no “stand out” features to discuss here which help SendPulse stand out from the crowd.
A free WordPress plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/sendpulse-web-push/) can assist with installing the service on your blog, which is free to all users irrespective of how many subscribers you collect.
PushCrew is the service which I personally have the most experience with, having used it extensively on one of my own blogs for the last few months.
It is also quite different from a number of the other services listed here for a range of reasons…
Firstly, there’s the pricing. While there is a free version, there are a number of limitations to it. For example, if you want to remove the PushCrew branding from your optin form, or you want to issue notifications for more than one website, then you’ll need to upgrade to a paid account.
The costs vary, depending on the number of subscribers you have, but the top-end account starts at $75 a month at the time of writing – not a small sum of money by any means.
Then there’s more bad news. Unlike all the other services discussed so far, PushCrew does not (yet) support Safari – just Chrome and Firefox.
In truth, looking at my own analytics Safari is a less popular browser among my visitors than the other two. That said, all the same there’s a risk that you’ll be missing out on potential subscribers by using PushCrew, as opposed to one of their competitors.
So it’s bad news, then, right?
Well, not so fast there sailor.
You see, PushCrew also offers a number of handy services that might just make all the difference to you…
Firstly, they offer a handy “rss to push” service – whereby you can automatically send out a notification to your subscribers as soon as you publish a new article. No manual intervention required after the initial setup.
Secondly, and in my opinion most importantly, there’s also the initial optin form itself.
You see, the average push notification service simply displays a simple, boring, gray box at the top of the browser, asking visitors if they’d like to receive notifications.
As push notifications are so new at present, I think a lot of visitors won’t understand what that even means. Most likely they’ll just click “no” as they have no idea what will happen if they opt in.
PushCrew, however, has a rather more exciting alternative.
With Push Crew you have far more control over the appearance of your optin form, being able to control the text and formatting. Thus, you can explain *why* your visitor might want to subscribe, explaining the benefits of doing so.
In this way, I believe that the subscription rate you’ll receive with PushCrew is likely to be much higher than with other competing services.
Lastly, if someone clicks “no” on your optin popup, a small button remains on the side of your website throughout their visit. They can, at any time, click this to optin in if they’ve changed their mind.
PushCrew therefore represents an odd beast. On the one hand highly customizable, and with a range of really useful features. On the other hand it is severely hampered by cost and doesn’t yet support one of the key browsers that all other services use.
What’s the Best Website Push Notification Service?
If you haven’t been swayed one way or the other yet, the obvious question is “what’s best”?
One of the downsides of push notification services is that migrating your subscribers to a new service can be challenging, so it’s easiest to start off with the right solution to begin with.
To this end, we’ve opted to compare the key features of each service in a handy table, to make comparison as easy as possible for you.
|Cost||Free||Free-$199 per month||Free||Free-$750 per month|
|Split Testing||Yes||No||No||No ("coming soon" to paid accounts)|
|RSS to Push||No||No||No||Yes|
|Ease of Implementation||Hard||Medium||Easy||Easy|
In truth, there really is no such thing as the “best” solution – it all really depends on your own circumstances.
For most people, I believe that PushCrew probably offers the best compromise between features and ease-of-installation. Advanced users might want to consider One Signal as an alternative, as while their setup is more complex, the ability to split test messages may be enough to convince you.